United States v Bishop 7thCIR 7DEC2018

After the defendant shot a customer in a drug deal gone wrong, the police obtained a warrant to search his cell phone and authorized the seizure of:

“ … any evidence (including all photos, videos, and/or any other digital files, including removable memory cards) of suspect identity, motive, scheme/plan along with DNA evidence of the crime of Criminal Recklessness with a deadly weapon which is hidden or secreted in the cellphone or related to the offense of dealing illegal drugs.”

The police executed the rant and found incriminating evidence that was used at trial. The defendant argued that the language was too general and authorized the police to rummage through every application and file to determine if any files met the description.  The defendant argued this violated the particularity requirement in the warrant clause of the Fourth Amendment.

The Seventh Circuit agreed that the warrant allowed the police to look at every file to determine if it meets the description.  But the court disagreed that this made the warrant too general.  The court likened digital files on a digital storage device to paper files in a filing cabinet.  If a warrant can authorize an officer to look at every paper document in a filing cabinet to determine if any satisfy the warrant requirements, then they can “look” at every digital document in a digital file storage to accomplish the same goal without running afoul of the particularity requirement of the Fourth Amendment.

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